Pepsi Levies a Sin Tax on Its Workers

The workers decided they wanted to withdraw as a group from Pepsi’s health plan, so Martucci began shopping for a new one. A dozen insurers were interested in the Teamsters’ business, but they wouldn’t provide quotes without seeing a history of employee health claims to get a sense of the costs they could expect. Martucci says Pepsi-Co failed to turn over everything the Teamsters requested, citing health-care privacy laws. “We have always been willing to provide the unions with as much information as possible,” says Dave DeCecco, a PepsiCo spokesman. Martucci filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board last fall alleging that the company violated its contract with the Teamsters. A spokesman for the NLRB says it’s trying to negotiate a settlement.

PepsiCo opposes so-called sin taxes when it comes to levying them on its own products—an idea Congress floated in 2009 as a way to pay for health-care reform. Thirty states introduced legislation for soda taxes meant to improve residents’ health and close budget gaps. PepsiCo spent at least $17 million on lobbying and advertising to battle the proposals from 2009 to 2011, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington advocacy group. In the end, none of the taxes passed. “Most rational people understand that one product is not the cause of obesity,” says DeCecco. “It’s caused by a multitude of factors.”

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By  | businessweek.com

Pol_pepsi12__01__630x420Four years ago, PepsiCo (PEP) began rolling out a wellness program that charges its employees $50 a month if they smoke or have obesity-related medical problems such as diabetes, hypertension, and high blood pressure.

1950's Pepsi Please

Workers can avoid the surcharge if they attend classes to learn how to break their nicotine addictions or lose weight. When about 400 unionized PepsiCo bottlers and truck drivers in central New York learned early last year they’d be subject to the fee, they rebelled. It’s a “sin tax,” says Ozzie Martucci, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 669 in Albany. “We’re against that type of tax, frankly. It feels wrong.” Leer más “Pepsi Levies a Sin Tax on Its Workers”

Is Vitaminwater Really a Healthy Drink?

Over the past few years, an increasing number of worn-out consumers have reached for a bottle of Vitaminwater after a workout. The sports drink has emerged as a serious competitor to Gatorade and other noncarbonated beverages, so much so that Coca-Coca forked over $4.2 billion in cash to buy the brand from Glaceau back in 2007. On its July 21 earnings call, Coke CEO Muhtar Kent was particularly bullish about Vitaminwater, which is now being sold in 15 markets worldwide, including France, China and South Africa.

But do some of these weekend warriors think they’re just getting a healthy mix of vitamins and water, as the name of the product implies, when they chug that sweet drink? Probably so. But they’re getting more: 33 grams of sugar and 125 calories, for every 20-ounce bottle. Hey, where’s the sugar in the name? (See the top 10 bad beverage ideas.) [Más…]

Such mixed-message marketing has caused one food-health advocacy group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), to lead a class-action suit that claims that Coca-Cola is violating consumer-protection laws with its Vitaminwater brand. According to CSPI nutritionists, Vitaminwater’s sugar content more than offsets any advertised health benefits provided by the nutrients in the drink. “They added vitamins to crap,” says Stephen Gardner, chief litigator for CSPI. “And it’s still crap. Consumers shouldn’t have to assume that the front of a label is a lie. You cannot deceive in the big print and tell the truth later.”

The group achieved a victory last week, when a federal judge tossed out Coke’s motion to dismiss the case. In a strongly worded 55-page opinion, Judge John Gleeson of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn said that the health claims on some Vitaminwater bottles may be in violation of FDA regulations since the drink “achieves its nutritional content solely through fortification that violates FDA policy.” The judge thinks Coke could be violating the so-called jellybean rule, which says that a food- or drinkmaker cannot load otherwise unhealthy products with vitamins or other nutrients in order to claim it is healthy. A sugar product is a sugar product: you can’t say a jellybean fights heart disease because it contains no cholesterol. (See 10 myths about dieting.)

Gleeson also ruled that the claim that the Vitaminwater name misleads consumers is potentially actionable, since that key third ingredient, sugar, is conveniently absent from the title. “The potential for confusion is heightened,” Gleeson wrote, “by the presence of other statements in Vitaminwater’s labeling, such as the description of the product as a ‘vitamin enhanced water beverage’ and the phrases ‘vitamins + water + all you need’ and ‘vitamins + water = what’s in your hand’ which have the potential to reinforce a consumer’s mistaken belief that the product is comprised of only vitamins and water.”


By Sean Gregory

Bottles of Vitaminwater at a New York City convenience store

Mark Lennihan / AP

Over the past few years, an increasing number of worn-out consumers have reached for a bottle of Vitaminwater after a workout. The sports drink has emerged as a serious competitor to Gatorade and other noncarbonated beverages, so much so that Coca-Coca forked over $4.2 billion in cash to buy the brand from Glaceau back in 2007. On its July 21 earnings call, Coke CEO Muhtar Kent was particularly bullish about Vitaminwater, which is now being sold in 15 markets worldwide, including France, China and South Africa.

But do some of these weekend warriors think they’re just getting a healthy mix of vitamins and water, as the name of the product implies, when they chug that sweet drink? Probably so. But they’re getting more: 33 grams of sugar and 125 calories, for every 20-ounce bottle. Hey, where’s the sugar in the name? (See the top 10 bad beverage ideas.) Leer más “Is Vitaminwater Really a Healthy Drink?”